Cluarankwai Judo Club Celebrates 70th Birthday

Cluarankwai Judo Club is this year celebrating their 70th anniversary of the opening of their club in Scotland.

The club was started in Kilmarnock by members of the Massey Harris Tractor Plant Workers Association Club in a room in the big house at Annanhill in 1949. Ted Routley, who had come up to Scotland from England to work at the plant, was a brown belt at the time but was graded in Edinburgh by Gunji Koisumi, the founder of British Judo to black belt and was the founder of the club. He had been a Commando in the Second World War and trained at the Budokwai in London. Some founder members of the club, Alex MacKintosh, who was trying to Judo by following a instructions in a book  and George Gilmour (senior) who visited the Budokwai  in the 1946 being two who had an interest in Judo before the club started.

The name of the club comes from the Galic for Thistle – Cluaran and Kwai the Japanese for the way. The thistle was to represent all round defence but also it’s seeds would scatter and for new clubs. This inspired the clubs motto: “Defence not Defiance”.

The club has had many venues, in the 1960’s it was in the old Scout Hut in the Ossington Gardens not far from the current club. In the late 60’s the members raised funds, and with a grant from the Scottish Sports Council, built a purpose-built training hall, which had one full mat area. This was the only one in Scotland and was completed in 1972.

The main coaches and administrators during the 1960-1974 period were Pat Hughes, John L Young, John S Young, Tommy Rankin, Bert Houston, Ronnie Barbour, Alex McKintosh Davey Smillie and Davey Sneddon.

The old club in Ossington Gardens was very Spartan but produced many Scottish champions, A British and European individual medallist in John L Young and Edward J Cassidy who was British champion 4 times and a European team medallist as well as training in Japan for 3 years. The club also won the Scottish team championship twice in the 1960’s

The new club continued to produce many Scottish and British medallists and is still the only purpose built Dojo in Scotland. The committee in the early 1990’s were advised by Colin McIver that there was a possibility of obtaining a grant to extend the club from the Foundation for Sports and Arts based in Liverpool which was funded from the Football Pools. Plans were drawn up but due to planning issues an application was not made until 1999 but by this time it was the Lottery Fund who had the resources.

After a long drawn out process and huge fundraising efforts,  the new Dojo was built in 2005 and fitted out for its official opening in 2006 by Kisaburu Watanabe 8th Dan. Jim Longmuir was the project manager, and could write a book on all the twists and turns and the amount of time spent pulling the finance and other elements together. As well as Jim the main influential coaches and administrators during the period 1975-2019 were John S Young, George Gilmour (J), Robert Longmuir, Paul Cassidy, Morgan Laurie and Willie Gilroy.

The club has attracted some of the best coaches and players in the world to the club – Anton Geesink (Olympic and World Heavy weight champion)  Kisaburu Watanabe (8th Dan),  Yoshihiko Iura (8th Dan), Alexander Retuinskih ( Russia Judo champion and president of ROSS), Kose Inoue (World and Olympic Champion), Neil Adams (World Champion), Neil Eckersley (Olympic bronze medallist), Dave Starbrook (Olympic silver medallist), Nigel Donnohoe, George Kerr (10th Dan), Colin McIver (9th Dan), Joyce Heron (World bronze medallist), Yoko Tanabe (World Champion) Seth Birch, Miklos Ungvary (Olympic Silver medallist) amongst others.

The club also hosted the Ghana team training sessions during the Commonweath Games in Glasgow in 2014 with Head Coach Sam Querco still keeping in touch today.

Three years ago the Cluarankwai were the first Judo club to be awarded a direct club investment grant to employ a part-time coach. Louise Renicks, one Scotland’s Gold medallists from the Glasgow Commonwealth, was awarded the post and worked in the schools and the club for two years, doubling the junior membership.

The club has always been run by volunteers in the true spirit of the sport some of the names who have contributed significantly, other than those already mentioned are –

Paul Mathie, Steven Ross, Gary Muirhead, Aam Muirhead, Paul McClarty, Jim Cunnigham, Paul Cunningham, Daniel Patrick, Davey McGregor, Mark Murphy, Alan Paton, Brian Paton, Thomson Anderson, Dougie Sneddon, Robin Findlay, Kyle Bicker, Karen Hayburn, Richard Longmuir (who is responsible for the rebranding of the Club).

Also parents who have made a significant contribution are  – Ian Paton, Jean Jamieson, Alistair Welsh, Pamela Kilpatrick and many more.

The main behind the move to their newest Dojo, Jim Longmuir was delighted to reach this significant milestone with the club: “We have had visitors from all over the world and have links with clubs in France,Russia and Ghana.”

“For many of the members Judo is a way of life and spend many hours every week not just on the mat coaching and training but administration,repairs and maintenance and maintaining links with the local community.”

“We try to show by example the message of mutual benefit, self development and the production of well rounded citizens as Kano intended and not just top class competition players.”.